It’s  a bit late for Independence Day celebrations. However, my mom forwarded an email to me today that is not new but I found it to be  compelling.

I knew that Richard Reid aka the shoe bomber had been sentenced but I had not followed his trial. During his sentencing Reid affirmed his commitment to defeat all things American. "I am at war with your country." Yes it is true that our country has done some less than admirable things both here and abroad but it remains odd for me that so many would like to annihilate us all for our existence, for being a part of it.

This is the text of the email my mother sent me:

  • Remember the guy who got on a plane with a bomb built into his shoe and tried to light it?
  • Did you know his trial is over?
  • Did you know he was sentenced?
  • Did you see/hear any of the judge’s comments on TV or Radio?

Didn’t think so.  Everyone should hear what the judge had to say.

Ruling by Judge William Young, US District Court. Prior to sentencing, the Judge asked the defendant if he had anything to say.

His response: After admitting his guilt to the court for the record, Reid also admitted his "allegiance to Osama bin Laden, to Islam, and to the religion of Allah," defiantly stating, "I think I will not apologize for my actions," and told the court "I am at war with your country."

Judge Young then delivered the statement quoted below:

January 30, 2003, United States vs. Reid.  Judge Young:

"Mr. Richard C. Reid, hearken now to the sentence the Court imposes upon you.

On counts 1, 5 and 6 the Court sentences you to life in prison in the custody of the United States Attorney General. On counts 2, 3, 4 and 7, the Court sentences you to 20 years in prison on each count, the sentence on each count to run consecutively. (That’s 80 years.)

On count 8 the Court sentences you to the mandatory 30 years again, to be served consecutively to the 80 years just imposed. The Court imposes upon you for each of the eight counts a fine of $250,000 that’s an aggregate fine of $2 million. The Court accepts the government’s recommendation with respect to restitution and orders restitution in the amount of $298.17 to Andre Bousquet and $5,784 to American Airlines.

The Court imposes upon you an $800 special assessment.

The Court imposes upon you five years supervised release simply because the law requires it. But the life sentences are real life sentences so I need go no further. This is the sentence that is provided for by our statutes.

It is a fair and just sentence. It is a righteous sentence.

Now, let me explain this to you. We are not afraid of you or any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We are Americans. We have been through the fire before. There is too much war talk here and I say that to everyone with the utmost respect. Here in this court, we deal with individuals as individuals and care for individuals as individuals. As human beings, we reach out for justice.

You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier, gives you far too much stature. Whether the officers of government do it or your attorney does it, or if you think you are a soldier. You are not—– you are a terrorist. And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not meet with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists. We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice.

So war talk is way out of line this court. You are a big fellow. But you are not that big. You’re no warrior. I’ve known warriors. You are a terrorist. A species of criminal that is guilty of multiple attempted murders. In a very real sense, State Trooper Santiago had it right when you first were taken off that plane and into custody and you wondered where the press and the TV crews were, and he said: "You’re no big deal."

You are no big deal.

What your able counsel and what the equally able United States attorneys have grappled with and what I have as honestly as I know how tried to grapple with, is why you did something so horrific. What was it that led you here to this courtroom today?

I have listened respectfully to what you have to say. And I ask you to search your heart and ask yourself what sort of unfathomable hate led you to do what you are guilty and admit you are guilty of doing? And, I have an answer for you. It may not satisfy you, but as I search this entire record, it comes as close to understanding as I know.

It seems to me you hate the one thing that to us is most precious. You hate our freedom. Our individual freedom. Our individual freedom to live as we choose, to come and go as we choose, to believe or not believe as we individually choose. Here, in this society, the very wind carries freedom. It carries it everywhere from sea to shining sea. It is because we prize individual freedom so much that you are here in this beautiful courtroom. So that everyone can see, truly see, that justice is administered fairly, individually, and discretely. It is for freedom’s sake that your lawyers are striving so vigorously on your behalf, have filed appeals, will go on in their representation of you before other judges.

We Americans are all about freedom. Because we all know that the way we treat you, Mr. Reid, is the measure of our own liberties. Make no mistake though. It is yet true that we will bare any burden; pay any price, to preserve our freedoms. Look around this s courtroom. Mark it well. The world is not going to long remember what you or I say here. The day after tomorrow, it will be forgotten, but this, however, will long endure.

Here in this courtroom and courtrooms all across America , the American people will gather to see that justice, individual justice, justice, not war, individual justice is in fact being done. The very President of the United States through his officers will have to come into courtrooms and lay out evidence on which specific matters can be judged and juries of citizens will gather to sit and judge that evidence democratically, to mold and shape and refine our sense of justice.

See that flag, Mr. Reid? That’s the flag of the United States of America That flag will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag stands for freedom. And it always will.

Mr. Custody Officer. Stand him down. "

So, how much of this Judge’s comments did we hear on our TV sets? We need more judges like Judge Young, but that’s another subject. Pass this around. Everyone should and needs to hear what this fine judge had to say. Powerful words that strike home. God bless America.

You can find the official trancript to Richard Reid’s and Judge Young’s words here.

I’m not sure how I feel about the political message contained in the email. But I do feel strongly about individuals. If I am to be hated, I hope that it is for something that I personally have done. Likewise, if I feel disdain for another, I hope that it is for something that individual has done or said, not some historic act of one of his/her countrymen or leaders.

There are times that I feel so fortunate: (1) to have been born in 1968 – after integration & desegregation; (2) that I came of age after Roe vs. Wade but before the AIDS epidemic. I have been blessed with so many freedoms. Given these freedoms that I take for granted, it is so difficult to understand the perspectives of others who feel so differently, so narrowly, about what is right and wrong.   As a child I did not notice the color of my friends’ skin, their country of origin or their religious preferences. It was only as I grew older that I realized how much importance other people placed on these things.

I have learned to become wary and it saddens me. When I travel to DC, my cab drivers often have names like Mohammad or Ahmed. I feel guilty that I worry and wonder does this person want me dead for my existence, because my ankles are showing, because I dare travel without a male family member, because my head is not covered? And yet the stereotypes go both ways. Recently at my work several cars have been vandalized, keyed down their sides on the street. The first two people to whom this has happened are Muslim. The third drives a car identical to one of the first two. We all wonder whether this is racially motivated. We’ve reported these events to the local police. We are all hoping that it is simply random vandalism, kids. The alternative is simply so daunting, so unimaginably horrid.

At the end of the day, I think we all want to be judged as individuals.